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Excerpt From: Peri Dwyer Worrell. “Watch It Burn” (Eupocalypse, #2), Chapter 36

Bad things happen

when you’re a brave adventurer looking for risk in a cruel world. Such things happen to wealthy girls in country-club neighborhoods and to poor girls who grow up in the slums. Sometimes you never see the guy again (other times he winds up nominated to the Supreme Court)…

“Once she was lying down in the dark, the ghosts of her past that Mother Laura had summoned came back to haunt her. She remembered her first love; she fifteen and eager to dispose of her virginity, Dennis a worldly-wise (or so it seemed) sixteen, and more than willing to help. They used to find little niches like this one in the unmowed corners of the parks, around the backs of alleys they’d slip their supple teenaged bodies through chain-link fence to get into, or (her favorite) on a blanket on the roof of his apartment building, the sun in its blazing heat bringing out the contrast of his brown skin with her pale whiteness.
One day, he lay on one elbow after they’d made love, stroking her sleek, firm adolescent body, and said, “One day, we’ll be married and have a daughter. She’ll have café-au-lait skin and eyes as green as yours.” D.D. smiled now, remembering.
Then she remembered Yvonne, Dennis’s mother, who had figured out their oh-so-transparent lies and gumshoed them up onto the roof. D.D. in her bra, picking up her shirt to pull it on, turning and coming face to face with Yvonne’s furious demand that they come downstairs right now!
Delaying it, dressing slowly and apprehensively, dragging their feet down twenty-four flights, to find Yvonne and D.D.’s parents embedded in the living room. Yvonne shrieking into her face words like whore and slut and aren’t you ashamed? D.D.’s mother and father silently taking in the cruelty, speechless and unsure how to react, Dennis posed rigidly, expressionless, a stone, not looking at her or taking her hand, underneath the Eldridge Cleaver poster on the wall.
No, I am not ashamed. I will never be ashamed. And I am never coming back.
Her parents still sitting, still impassive, on Yvonne’s sofa. The door slamming behind her so satisfyingly, the doorman downstairs backing up a step when he saw her furious tear-streaked face. She didn’t remember walking home, but she would have stopped the tears and put on a street face, because crying white girl’s tears in the street of that neighborhood was like slinging a bucket of chum to sharks.

Getting to her walk-up tenement building somehow. Unlocking the first door, to the street, and Calvin coming up, the boy who had been eyeing her when she walked by the crowd of Puerto Rican and black boys who hung out on the next street—eyeing her but not saying anything crude or making kissing noises or hissing sounds, like some of them did. She’d smiled at him a few times before she met Dennis, and even wrote in her diary that he was cute, making a little heart instead of the dot over the “i” in his name.

Calvin was suddenly behind her in the entryway as she fitted her key in the second door and turned it, and then he was pressing her against the wall at the foot of the stairs, bigger and more solid than she’d thought, his mouth bruising hers and his chest squeezing the air out of her lungs. Laughing when she struggled to push him off her, covering her mouth with his again when she finally got enough breath to try to scream, his hands, his cock, his rancid smell, the pain, and too late, the sound of a door opening upstairs and another tenant clattering down the stairwell, five floors up.

He’d ghosted. She’d pulled up her shorts and run inside her family’s empty apartment before anyone could see her like that. She had cried herself to sleep, as she was crying now.

…And waking at the first light of dawn, shivering and wet with dew, with hands and face bloated with bug bites.”

 

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The South

There’s a reason the first chapter of Machine Sickness starts in the South. There’s a reason Deirdre Davis is a southerner. That wasn’t by chance, and it wasn’t solely because I chose to follow the classic writer’s advice to “write what you know.” I have lived in the southern USA for more of my life than anywhere else, but I was born in the West, grew up in New York City,  went to undergrad school in Chicago, got my Doctor of Chiropractic degree in Atlanta, and now I live in Mexico.

The shame and rage that Americans feel about the hypocrisy of a nation supposedly based on freedom that compromised that principle for political unity, is othered and alienated and transferred to the South. To read mainstream media, you would think that slavery, legally-mandated segregation, racial massacres, and lynching were isolated only in the South and performed only by Southerners, whereas the truth is that these abhorrent practices were common in the North even after slave importation was banned and even after the passage of the 13th Amendment. Reading mainstream media, you’d imagine that the people whom it is still okay to refer to by ethnic pejoratives like “redneck” and “hillbilly” (usually preceded by the word “ignorant”), were the ones responsible for slavery, when the “poor white trash” of the South were overwhelmingly not slave owners and some suffered from a job market depressed by slave labor. While the elite generals of the Union were wined and dined by plantation owners, the 1-percenters of their day, these people were scorned. The plagues of domestic violence, alcoholism, and learned economic helplessness descended through generations.

The historical awareness among Scots-Irish descendants of being on the losing side of the Civil War is exacerbated by the tradition of military honor and clan loyalty passed down from their gaelic-language-speaking ancestors of the British Isles. The sense of unfair play of small holders, sharecroppers, and agricultural workers, whose red necks came from exposing white skin to the Southern sun while growing the raw materials for Northern factories, yielded a coarse and sometimes grim sense of humor, so that DD remembers her mother saying she was “always one to call a spade a goddam shovel.”

In DD, you have a character somewhat like Detective Clarice Starling in the Hannibal Lecter stories. In one prison interview scene, Hannibal gets under Clarice’s skin by pointing out that she is only a couple of generations removed “from poor white trash.” DD is a brilliant scientist, a highly educated woman, but she will never completely shake the hypervigilance and pragmatism of her background; her family relationships reflect a modern alienation as well as epigenetic dysfunction; she doesn’t design or engineer, she tinkers. She’s acutely aware of physical threats to her safety in ways that people who’ve always felt safe are not, but what goes unstated is that she’s also aware of those who are superlatively safe and don’t feel like it.

Yet, the Eupocalypse is an opportunity to start over in a world where notions of class and wealth, risk and safety, are recalibrated. It’s a world where the materials of modern life are lost, but the ideas are not.

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Machine Sickness Spreads!

You asked, you received!

The suspenseful sci-fi thriller Machine Sickness is now available in multiple formats, not just Kindle. To get it in your favorite, B&N, Apple e-books, Kobo, and more formats, click here:

Machine Sickness

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Free e-Book Sunday and Monday

As a special promotion to celebrate its redesigned cover, Machine Sickness will be free on Amazon for two days only: Sunday, November 5, and Monday, November 6. This is your opportunity to read Book 1 of the Eupocalypse series for free.

 

Download it now!

Machine Sickness: The Eupocalypse Series: Book 1
Download it free for two days only!
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Bolivar Beauty

Watching my friends on social media trying who are slowly recuperating from Harvey’s devastation, I recall the beauty of the Bolivar peninsula, east of Houston. I was so enamored of the beauty of the area when I visited there about three years ago that I located much of the early part of Machine Sickness in the area.  The people of the area struck me as deeply self-reliant and resourceful, and that was part of why I set the beginning of the global catastrophe as occurring in the offshore oil platforms of the Texas Gulf Coast. While disaster fiction can be entertaining, it is heartbreaking to think of a real-life disaster striking the area described in the book:

 

Right? Or left? To her left, a jacked-up pickup truck was parked on the sand about a quarter mile away, but she didn’t see the occupants. She turned right instead and picked a random destination for her walk. Half a mile or so south was a cheerful apricot-colored house right across from a head of sand pointed into the water; that was her mark. She started towards it, savoring the sun on the left side of her face. The mid-morning temperature was just right for a walk, with a breeze that was cooling but not icy, and she settled into a soft-kneed, easy pace on the sand. Low wavelets broke with soft sighing sounds. A lone pelican cruised by, south-to-north, perhaps fifty feet above the waves. She swung her arms as she walked, making huge circles like 3D snow-angel wings, trying to release the road tension from her neck. She paused and shaded her eyes, turning in a circle.
The distant truck’s occupants turned out to be a white man and woman, now seated on a blanket and watching a small beige child play with a pail and shovel. DD spotted the oil rigs, just far enough out that one could see them only on the clearest of days, like today. And there was something moving near the rigs, a boat, too far out even to get an idea if it was a small, slow, close craft or a large, fast, far one.

And another snippet about the ferry between Galveston and Bolivar:

At the boarding station, she obeyed the ferry crew, who gestured with neon-yellow gloves for her to take lane number three. She pulled her little SUV in line where it was eclipsed behind a customized Ford Expedition, and lilliputianized next to an F-350 (yes, I’m in Texas, truck capital of the USA). She cut off the engine. The sun was two fingers’ breadth from setting and the bay was choppy, with steely gray waves in sharp regular rows like a bastard-cut file. The fall air was fresher now that the sun was low. A dolphin’s supple back gleamed briefly among the waves. Pelicans circled and dropped, lunging into the water with flapping feet.

The ferry’s motor was running, a slowly oscillating bass growl she could feel through the soles of her feet and up into her hips. She returned to her car and checked her e-mail: nothing pressing. She watched a tiny tugboat push a gigantic oil platform towards the cluster of refineries ashore. A group of laughing children ran along the beach. She glanced back down at her phone, then looked up and slammed her foot on the brake in panic, briefly disoriented seeing the dock pylons moving past her as the boat left its berth. The ship’s start had been so gradual she hadn’t felt the movement.

She got out of the car again and circled the walkways around the deck. Reaching the rail at the bow, she stood next to a bronze-faced Hispanic family: dad, mom, and three girls with silky long black hair, the youngest’s in two long braids. The sunset comprised utterly saturated, extravagant streaks of lemon yellow, apricot, and lavender. Another dolphin! The latex-shiny grey fin and back were gone, back below the whitecaps, even as she exclaimed aloud, “Dolphin!” The family scanned for it in vain, the little girl bouncing on her toes. DD smiled, thinking of her own innocent little girl, years ago, and a familiar pang of grief-guilt-fear shot down the smile, just as quickly.

The lights of Houston twinkled to life on the horizon below the sunset. She checked her phone again; five full bars of coverage, but still no response from Tim.

I know the people in the area are part of a strong and caring community, and they will help one another recuperate from the storm. As a believer in radical decentralization, I am always looking for local groups which put most of their resources into  love in action. Accordingly, I made a donation to the Cajun Navy, and I encourage you to donate as well.

Peri Dwyer Worrell

 

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Will I Like Machine Sickness?

Sure, it’s only $3.99, but if you don’t like the book, that’s $3.99 down the drain. So, what authors do you like?

A site called “I write like…” has a fun feature where you can insert a snippet of prose and it will analyze it and match it with a famous author. Using various chapters of Machine Sickness, these are the results: